WNBA Seattle Storm: Meet Ivana Dojkić, the Croatian sensation

Croatian basketball star Ivana Dojkić is headed stateside. At simply 25 years previous, Dojkić is already among the many most seasoned of EuroLeague professionals, and now she is on her approach to the WNBA after signing a contract with the Seattle Storm.

On the court docket, Dojkić combines a developed three-level scoring capacity and an all-world passing capacity right into a deadly “cross first, rating if wanted” participant profile. Add in omniscient court docket imaginative and prescient and slick handles, and Dojkić on paper is the prototype for a future star within the WNBA.

Presently taking part in for Virtus Pallacanestro Bologna in Italy, Dojkić’s skilled basketball profession has spanned throughout 9 years and 5 international locations. Born within the coastal paradise of Poreč, Croatia, she fell in love with basketball after her first observe as an eight-year-old.

At 12, she packed her issues and left Poreč for the primary cease in her endless basketball journey. First she moved to Zagreb when her older brother Marko received referred to as up by KK Cedevita. “They took him as a younger prospect, and I [nonchalantly] stated ‘Okay, I’ll go too,’” she stated. Abandoning her hometown, in addition to her father who determined to remain again in Poreč, was solely step one in an extended profession of sacrifices and goodbyes that Dojkić would endure en path to worldwide success.

The silver lining? Initially simply alongside for the trip in Zagreb, Dojkić started taking part in basketball extra competitively herself, and by her early teenage years, she was already taking part in for Novi Zagreb’s senior staff.

At 16, Dojkić signed with Ženski Košarkarski Klub Celje in Celje, Slovenia. Although Celje is only a couple hours’ drive from Poreč, the prospect of relocating to a different nation to pursue her hoop goals was daunting. The transfer to Slovenia would wind up paling in scope in comparison with Dojkić’s future endeavors. By the point she joined Virtus Bologna at 23, Dojkić had performed professionally for golf equipment in Croatia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Russia and Hungary.

Understandably, continuously transferring between international international locations to play skilled basketball was troublesome for the younger Dojkić, however she attributes a lot of her resilience on and off the court docket to the strikes. “Regardless that I needed to surrender quite a lot of instances as a result of it was very robust dwelling in Moscow at such a younger age … that is now [paying off], all these sacrifices that I made,” she stated.

This season with Virtus Bologna, Dojkić is averaging 12.2 factors, 2.6 rebounds and three.2 assists per recreation. She shoots 41.5 % from the sphere, 34.3 % from deep and 83.3 % from the free throw line, a strong set of splits that ensures defenses can by no means let her breathe.

Although her service in EuroLeague by no means went with out discover, her efficiency at EuroBasket 2021 was what actually catapulted her onto the radars of WNBA groups. Dojkić had already lately signed a contract with the New York Liberty in the summertime of 2021, however the phrases of the deal fell by as a result of EuroBasket interfered with the beginning of the WNBA season.

As soon as EuroBasket 2021 began, possibly the Liberty’s scouting division felt vindicated that the woman they’d discovered confirmed up on a global stage; or possibly they felt a twinge of remorse seeing the participant they let go dominate.

Regardless of Croatia profitable only one recreation, Dojkić went on a private tear at EuroBasket. Because the captain of the staff, she averaged 20.3 factors per recreation, the third-highest common of the match behind WNBA gamers Jonquel Jones and Emma Meesseman. Although her effectivity suffered when she shifted right into a extra outstanding scoring position, Dojkić greater than made up for it along with her patented passing imaginative and prescient.

Croatia’s sole win was a dismantling of the Czech Republic by which Dojkić posted 24 factors on 58 % taking pictures to go together with seven assists. Although this efficiency put her on the radars of WNBA scouts, she nonetheless wanted some extra reps in EuroLeague earlier than one other staff was able to signal her to a contract.

Two years and 1000’s of hours of labor after EuroBasket, Dojkić was lastly supplied a contract by the Seattle Storm. “Seattle was the quickest and {most professional},” Dojkić stated. “We have been actually understanding one another completely. They noticed me in such a great way regardless that we simply had a number of talks.”

Dojkić knew immediately that the Storm have been the staff for her. “Typically you are feeling that connection,” she stated. “Typically it’s essential to comply with your emotions, and I actually determined based mostly on that.”

Dojkić’s deal, the precise phrases of which the Storm haven’t publicized, is non-guaranteed. As an undrafted rookie, she must show herself on each single possession to earn a everlasting place within the league. Dojkić cites her decade {of professional} play as adequate preparation, nonetheless. “I gained quite a lot of expertise taking part in on such knowledgeable, excessive degree,” she stated. “From such a younger age I began to compete towards a lot older and stronger basketball gamers. This developed my recreation at a younger age at such a excessive degree.”

Dojkić has performed towards numerous WNBA stars like Diana Taurasi, Breanna Stewart and Britney Griner throughout their respective stints abroad, so she is already considerably acclimated to the trials of WNBA competitors. “Once you play towards them, nothing can shock you that a lot if you go to the WNBA for my part,” she stated.

Regardless of her expertise taking part in amongst WNBA gamers, Dojkić is cautious to not develop into overly assured about her transition to the league. “I’ll want extra adaptation on the completely different model of the sport [in the WNBA],” she admitted.

As her season with Bologna winds down in Might, she’s going to formally start her journey to Seattle. Whether or not Seattle is a everlasting residence or one other cease in Dojkić’s nomadic basketball profession stays to be seen, however she can’t await the transition. “It’s one other world for me, so I’m actually wanting ahead to it,” she stated.

With the lights attributable to shine brighter on her than ever earlier than, Dojkić can’t assist however really feel appreciative of the chance to play within the WNBA. “For me, EuroLeague was a dream, but additionally I’ll say this WNBA factor is a present,” she stated. “The organizations, arenas, advertising locations … it’s one thing else that we don’t actually have right here.” Dojkić’s acknowledgement of the WNBA’s luxuries doubles as a constructive criticism of the abroad recreation, nonetheless.

“The expansion [of women’s basketball] is extra seen there within the states than right here in Europe,” she stated. “Right here I feel we must always enhance quite a lot of issues reminiscent of advertising, media and social interactions and issues.” Although on no account an ideal measure of help and publicity, evaluating the social media followings of the WNBA to these of the EuroLeague backs up Dojkić’s prognosis. @EuroLeagueWomen on Instagram has simply 98,000 followers in comparison with the WNBA’s 1.3 million; on Twitter the WNBA’s 806,000 followers dwarf the EuroLeague’s 37,000.

Although she spent the final decade dwelling out her dream in EuroLeague, the league’s instability worries Dojkić. “Economically, ten years [ago] it was significantly better, however now it’s not such an amazing state of affairs in Europe,” she stated. In her eyes, help for the ladies’s recreation in Europe is sputtering in comparison with the fast progress of the WNBA. “Within the US I feel they’re actually bettering … however we’re struggling to enhance in Europe,” she stated.

Even then, so far as Dojkić is anxious, she has carried out her job if she is somebody ladies all over the world can look as much as. “I consider [I am] actually proof that… even from small international locations [women] have a approach to attain [our] goals and targets,” she stated.

She already has 1000’s of factors, rebounds and assists to her identify, each in EuroLeague play and worldwide play. She already has confirmed her price in entrance of audiences throughout Europe. Now, Ivana Dojkić is gearing as much as transfer to one more international nation and earn a spot within the WNBA.